By Natalie Chu
When you think about ice hockey – and the people who play it, what comes to mind? Maybe it’s watching the UBC men’s team in an arena full of fans at the Winter Classic. Or maybe it’s guys in bulky shoulder pads, slamming into boards in ice-cold rinks. Either way, your cliché hockey player is likely to be male because historically, hockey has been a very male-dominated sport. Amelia Boughn, the former goalie for the UBC women’s hockey team, shares her thoughts on playing women’s hockey as a young player and a varsity athlete.
Boughn has been playing hockey since she was eight years old, and talks about growing up playing a sport ‘for the boys’. “As a kid, you don’t believe you’re any different than the boys, so you’ve got this dream about going to the NHL and winning a Stanley Cup – just like all of them. But as you get older, you realize that dream isn’t really viable.”
When asked about the negative perceptions of female players, Boughn responded, “I don’t think it’s perceived badly that women play hockey.” Suggesting the issue may lie more in the fact that there is hardly a perception of women’s hockey at all because coverage and exposure of hockey tend to favour men.
“No one really knows about women’s hockey unless you market it” Boughn notes that UBC Athletics is doing a great job, but there might be ways that more can be done. For example, “my last couple of seasons, the men’s and women’s teams had made it to the first round of playoffs, and we were both ranked so that we’d have home ice. In both years, the men’s team was awarded the more favourable game time at 7:00 pm, where the women’s team played earlier in the day”, Boughn explained. “Of course, we don’t know what goes on behind the scenes, and we’re thankful for what we have, but it’s just good to question things and ask why something is a certain way. Is it just because it’s what we’re used to?”
Although the perception of the women’s game is improving, Boughn believes that there is still a long way to go. “For us, the older generations have paved the way to make it easier to be a female hockey player now than it was twenty years ago because the sport has had way more exposure recently, through the Olympics, the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL), and the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) – but there’s still a major gap.”
Since graduating, Boughn has become a member of the Professional Women’s Hockey Player’s Association (PWHPA). When the CWHL folded due to a lack of funding, some of the players formed the PWHPA. They have been partnering with sponsors to put on tournaments, like the Dream Gap Tour, to raise awareness for the women’s game.
Players in the PWHPA have full-time jobs, in addition to training to compete. “It’s a bit like going back to high school days – having a full day of work, and then going to late-night practices and weekend games,” explains Boughn. Currently, the PWHPA is not pushing for equal pay, but they are trying to obtain a league where women can earn a living wage by playing professionally. This will allow them to dedicate their time to growing the game.
“Women’s hockey is a great great opportunity to reconstruct the stereotypical Canadian hockey player, and make it more open and accessible,” says Boughn. Adding, “our goal is to make it easier for the next generation of female players so that they will be able to grow up with a legitimate dream of making a living by playing hockey.”
“I think this all fits into the broader conversation about hockey becoming a more accessible and inclusive sport for everyone, not just speaking to gender but also to socioeconomic status, race, culture, and language. It’s a great sport, and we should keep trying to make it a better sport for everyone.”
Back to stories